You probably don’t have trouble finding things for kids to do anywhere that has a beach. But New Smyrna Beach, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, has more to offer kids than just swimming and sand castles on its 17 miles of white sand. Here’s our favorite five.
Ride a pontoon boat through the Indian River Lagoon as a certified Florida naturalist tells about the marine wildlife you’ll find there. Along with dolphins you can see manatees, sea turtles and wading birds, and kids will get their hands wet as they inspect smaller marine life up close. They’ll also learn about the importance of the ecosystem of the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in North America, supporting more than 4,000 different species. This two-hour Dolphin Discovery Tour is run by the Marine Discovery Center.
Explore Lagoon Islands
On the three-hour Island Adventure EcoTour, your kids will not only see and learn about wildlife in the Indian River Lagoon, they’ll have a chance to get out of the boat and explore one of the islands on foot with a naturalist guide. During a walk around Disappearing Island, kids will learn more about the native coastal creatures that live in tidal pools, along shorelines and hide among native plants. It’s not all looking and listening: They’ll have a chance to use seine and dip nets to examine and learn more about fish, crabs and other saltwater species. Reserve this tour for your family through the Marine Discovery Center.
Kayak Through the Estuary
You don’t need any experience to paddle a kayak in the calm waters of the estuary, where you can view wildlife up close. The two-hour tour includes instruction and safety information, as well as all equipment. A certified naturalist from the Marine Discovery Center will lead the way through the diverse environments in the backwaters of the Indian River Lagoon. You’ll paddle through spooky mangroves, across salt marshes and over oyster reefs as you learn about the fascinating saltwater plants and watch for dolphins and manatees.
Get Your Hands Wet in the Aquarium
On a guided tour of the live aquarium, join naturalists as they feed the aquatic animals that reside there. These include sea turtles, gopher tortoises, dolphins, snails, sea urchins, sea horses and sharks. The touch tank offers more up-close-and-personal encounters as kids meet smaller sea creatures they can touch. The live exhibits at the Marine Discovery Center are free, and a guided tour with animal feeding is only $2.
Ride the Waves
Even younger children can get the thrill of surfing as they learn the basics on a private family surfing lesson. This is the place to do it, as the city’s barrier island is known for its surf. In fact, Surfer magazine recently named it one of the Best Surf Towns in America. Professional instructors from Surfin’ NSB will bring boards and equipment right to your beach hotel or condo and your whole family can learn together.